A few months ago, I got new glasses—bifocals—which were difficult to adjust to. (I can use a preposition at the end of a sentence now. Merriam Webster says so. ) They made me feel old, which was depressing, and sometimes, if I looked out of the wrong lenses, the ground below me would disappear, or become suddenly small, and I would fall down a flight of stairs. It was fun. During this painful period of bifocal adjustment, my daughter and I took a road trip from Phoenix to Albuquerque. A near-tragedy ensued, an event that will forever go down in our family’s lore as “Mom’s Night Blindness Incident.”
We drove Desi’s newly acquired 2016 charcoal gray Charger, which was her pride and joy. She spit-shined that thing on a regular basis. The fact that she was allowing me to drive it all meant that she loved me very, very much. But bless my soul, she was letting me drive. I had been for about six hours.
The sun was going down, falling over the New Mexico mountains the way it does in a lovely splash of orange and purple and pink. We were listening to a song Desi had introduced me to, which I called the “Are You Ready Mother Fuckers Song,” but was really called “One for the Money”. (My children ensure at least 10% of my musical tastes remain hip.) We were also eating yummy things designed to make us fat. (We have to nurture our curves—do you think they just happen by accident?) Desi was listening to me whine about being tired, because that’s what I do on road trips. In fact, there are several sentences I repeat so often that my children have threatened to make a “Mom jar,” which is like a swear jar, only I put a dollar in it every time I utter one of my mom sentences that drive them nuts. I don’t know why I repeat these sentences over and over. I don’t even think about it when I say them. They are like linguistic tics, fun ways to make conversation. They are:
- I’m so tired (uttered in the whiny voice of a toddler in need of a nap).
- Does anyone here love their mother? Raise your hand if you do (uttered in the peppy voice of a cheerleader on crack).
Now that I type them out like that, I can see why my kids want to shank me every time I say them. Incidentally, Desi is a graphic novelist, and she says someday, she is going to make a comic based on me called, The Real Tawni Waters, Not As Cool As She Looks On Paper. It’s touching that my children want to pay homage to me in their art. But anyway, Desi and I were driving, and she was telling me about her life, and I was interjecting into the conversation with those two sentences, or variations thereof, fairly regularly.
Just as twilight gave way to darkness, we pulled over in a small town to get gas. I can’t explain what happened next. The road in front of me disappeared. I mean, I saw the street in front of me, and then, everything went black. Panicking, I veered sharply, and were it not for Desi screaming as if she were being attacked by rabid wolverines, I probably would have plowed into a steady stream of oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the street. However, Desi did scream, “MOM, GO RIGHT GO RIGHT! WHAT’S GOING ON? WHY ARE YOU BARRELING HEADLONG INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC! OH, DEAR JESUS, SAVE US!?”
I screamed back, “I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING! I HAVE NIGHT BLINDNESS!”
Hearing of my sudden onset illness, Desi turned into her usual nurturing self. “WHAT THE LIVING FUCK, MOM? YOU DON’T GET NIGHT BLINDNESS INSTANTLY! YOU’RE INSANE, AND YOU’RE GOING TO KILL US! PULL THE FUCK OVER! I’M DRIVING!”
Calmed by her understanding and compassion, I regained my sight and pulled over into a motel parking lot. She leapt out of the car, ran around to my side, and yanked open my door. I was pretty sure she was going to drag me out by my collar and pistol whip me. “GET THE FUCK OUT! YOU’RE NOT DRIVING MY CAR EVER AGAIN!”
Which was soothing. I climbed out of the car, begging forgiveness. “I’m so sorry, Desi! I have night blindness!”
“Get the fuck in the car!” Desi screamed.
So I did, whimpering, “But I have night blindness.”
When we were back on the road, me slumped in the passenger seat, mourning my newly acquired disease (I’m a hypochondriac, so I spend a lot of time mourning newly acquired diseases), Desi in the driver’s seat, still trembling with rage, we had an enlightening conversation about the incident.
Desi: What THE FUCK happened back there?
Me: I don’t know! I just got night blindness! I couldn’t see anything!
Desi: You DON’T get night blindness instantly!
Me: Well, I did! I’m looking it up on Web MD when we get to Grandma’s.
Desi: I blocked Web MD on all the computers you have access to because you kept diagnosing yourself with cancer.
Me: Well, unblock it! I have night blindness! I swear, I couldn’t see anything!
Desi: Ok, fine, Mom. You couldn’t see anything. Why was your solution to veer off the road you had just been following? Did you think the laws of physics had upended themselves and the road had just disappeared? Wouldn’t the smart thing be to stay on the road, even if you couldn’t see it? AAAAAA!! I have night blindness! I have the perfect solution! I’ll catapult myself into a stream of oncoming traffic and die in a fiery crash!
Me: I couldn’t think clearly! I had night blindness!
Eventually, Desi forgave me for almost obliterating her new car. Our road trip fell back into its familiar, comfortable patterns, me screaming “ARE YOU READY MOTHER FUCKERS, ARE YOU READY LET’S GO” with the radio and intermittently whimpering, “I’m so tired,” every minute or two.
Desi: Mom, If you’re so tired, why don’t you sleep?
Me: I can’t sleep. If I sleep now, I won’t sleep tonight.
Desi: You won’t sleep tonight anyway. You’ve had insomnia since 1986.
Me: . . .
Me: I’m so tired.
Desi: If I get you a snack, will you shut up about how tired you are?
Desi knows that if you want me to shut up, or do anything, really, you should offer me food. As I mentioned, these curves didn’t happen by accident. I am a carbohydrate enthusiast and will respond to an offer of cookies with the fervor of a starving alley cat being offered tuna. If you buy me baked goods, you should probably stand back while putting them in my hand. I might bite you. Just drop those suckers on the floor in front of me and run. Desi stopped at a gas station and brought me a snack.
Me: What is this?
Desi: It’s your favorite. Nutter Butters.
Me: Oh, ok. I couldn’t read the label. I have night blindness.
Desi: MOM, YOU DON’T HAVE NIGHT BLINDNESS!
Me: I’m looking it up at Grandma’s.
For the rest of the trip, I tested my vision. We’d see a sign, and I’d say,
Me: Desi, can you read that?
Desi: Uh, yeah. It says “stop.”
Me: (wailing) I knew it! I can’t see a thing! It’s a big blur! I have night blindness.
Desi: Or, alternative theory, you need to put on your glasses.
I think Desi may have been right. (Don’t tell her I said so.) I think my night blindness may have been a temporary malady related to my bifocal adjustment. But silver linings: We didn’t die in a fiery crash, and my kids have a new way to mock me, which involves running around after me in public places saying, “Night blindness! Night blindness!”in really cruel, high pitched voices. (Our family is very loving. We show love in many ways. We say, “I love you.” We are there for one another when the proverbial shit hits the fan. We cuddle. We give little gifts that say “I’m thinking of you.” And we mock one another mercilessly.)